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If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, you don’t have to face these thoughts alone. September is Suicide Prevention Month, and it’s important to remember that you are valuable, your life matters and there is help if you, a friend or family member needs it. By listening, observing and taking appropriate action, we can all play a role in making life better for those around us — possibly even saving a precious life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,979 people died by suicide in 2020 in the United States, equating to one death every 11 minutes. More than 12 million adults are documented to have thought about suicide, with 3.2 million who made a plan and 1.2 million suicide attempts. The suicide rate among men was four times higher than for women. People 85 years of age and older have the highest suicide rates.
Suicidal Thoughts are Common
No matter who we are, we all face inevitable ups and downs in life. Going through hard times is part of being human, and so is experiencing unpleasant thoughts. Having suicidal thoughts can be a common response to hardship or loss, and they may be a side effect of an underlying medical condition that is not your fault. They can be fleeting and temporary or they can be chronic and bother you for a long time.
Having suicidal thoughts does not mean you’re morally flawed or that there’s something inherently wrong with you. What’s important is that you stay safe and do not act upon those thoughts.
Signs that Someone Might be Considering Suicide
There are some telltale signs that doctors and therapists look for to gauge whether a person is in crisis.
Look and listen for the following signs of suicidal ideation:
- Frequently thinking or talking about death
- Thinking or saying that one is better off dead or that others are better off without them
- Thinking or saying that dying is preferable to living
- Avoiding family and friends
- Losing interest in favorite activities
- Personal or family history of suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Sleeping too much to escape reality
- Substance use in order to cope
- Forming a suicide plan
- Obtaining lethal means to carry out a plan.
Tips for Helping
If you notice any of these signs in someone you know, you can offer support by encouraging the person to reach out to their primary care provider or seek treatment with a mental health counselor. You can offer to help the person by researching, making phone calls or even accompanying them to an appointment. Always be respectful of their feelings and refrain from making judgmental comments. Remind them that things can and will get better.
If you think someone might be in danger, you can ask the following questions to safely open up the topic:
- How are you coping with what's going on in your life?
- Do you ever feel like giving up?
- Are you thinking about dying?
- Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
- Are you thinking about suicide?
- Have you ever thought about suicide before, or tried to hurt yourself before?
- Have you thought about how or when you'd do it?
- Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used to hurt yourself?
Offering an opportunity to talk about their feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal thoughts.
Get Help If Needed
The new three-digit number to call for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 988. If you, a friend or family member is facing thoughts of suicide, emotional distress or substance use crisis, call or text 988 to get immediate support.
AdventHealth offers many services for those facing difficult times. If you find you’re having trouble coping and need support, contact AdventHealth Behavioral Health Assessment Center at 913-789-3218.